Posts Tagged thailand

I think you’ll quickly understand why South Thailand takes the cake when it comes to Thailand.  The south is fullllllllll of beaches, blue water (ok, clear water), white sands and just generally emotes peacefulness and happiness. When we first got on the ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan I was pretty pumped – the water was sky blue (which is pretty, but I know now pales in comparison to the rest of the south). Cue: I’ve entered my happy place. After two weeks of temples and walking, I was ready to just relax and take some time by the beach. But as always, trips are never about where you are… but who you are with and I was with a pretty fabulous group of people.

Where we went:

  • Bangkok
  • Surat Thani
  • Koh Sok National Park
  • Koh Phangan – Bottle Beach
  • Koh Phangan – Haad Rin Beach
  • Koh Tao
  • Krabi – Railay Bay
  • Krabi – Phuket – Patong Beach
  • Krabi Phuket – Panwa Cape/Bay (On my own)

Tour
TruTravels – 18 Day (link )

When I first got to the hostel/hotel to meet up with the group, I am not gonna lie — I was a little worried. The hotel was a bit of a step down from what I had just come from (i.e. mattresses on the floor, door was ajar upon walking in), but I had to quickly remind myself – the whole point of this journey was to get outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. I was backpacking and I had to embrace the backpacker life… so onward I went!  Within an hour of arriving, I was greeted by Luke, our tour charming British tour guide. Long story short – 18 days is a long time to spend with people, but when you do it right… it all just works out. We met up with the entire group that night at an Indian restaurant nearby (uhhhhhhhhhhmazing) and had a fun night out on Koh San Rd (Vegas for backpackers). I didn’t last terribly long, the week of traveling in the north caught up with me pretty quickly.

We had a few days in Bangkok to get to know one another and explore parts of the city I hadn’t seen yet – the JJ Market – whichis like the biggest farmers market in the entire world. Massive, crowded and pretty cool to experience. I had seen fish spa’s before, but I kinda wanted to try out… so I somehow got my two new friends (Lili from the UK and Sarah from New Zealand) to experience it with me. Let’s just say it was the the weirdest 15 minutes of my life… but I can check that off the bucket list! Ha.

As you can see, I quickly jumped into thai aparrel. Elephant pants? Elephant tops? LOVED THEM ALLLLLL. Plus, it was too hot to really wear the random stuff I had packed. For real, if you’re going to Thailand – pack the essentials and just buy things there ($3 tees, $5 pants). Everything is lightweight and you can toss/donate when you’re ready to leave. Plus, things disappear in the laundry all the time. Tip: Cheapest clothes are in Bangkok. Pack more dresses!

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com

Let’s just say these were terrific. Kinda like a crepe, but betterrrrr. Didn’t have them too often, but they were delIIIIISH.

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
Traveling South via Sleeper Train: Koh Sok National Park (COH-Sock)

Koh Sok was an absolute highlight. All 23 of us fit on this little longtail boat. Luke took us on an hour boat ride, along with some cliff diving and swimming off the boat. Buuuuuut then we arrived at our adorable floating bungalows for the night. While we had no hot water, electricity (till after 8pm) or wifi – it was a wonderful experience. We kayaked, chilled out, read and just veggggged out. The food here was absolutely ridiculous as well – Massaman Curry is my [now] faaaavorite and these peeps did it RIGHT. Yummmo!


www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com

Bottle Beach // Koh Phangan (COH-Pan-YANG)

After spending a few days on the road (overnight train, sleeping in bungalows, little to no showering) – our group took off further south to Koh Phangan – a small island widely known for the “Full Moon Party” – aka this insane rave that I have absolutely zero interest in. Hahaha. Thankfully, we were not on the island when this party was going on. Typically 30,000+ people come from various islands and crowd the place. There is always some sort of party happening, but thankfully we got to experience a very chilled out version of Koh Phangan.

After a 3 hour ferry and an hour truck ride through the Thai jungle, we were brought to a stunning beach… where we were once again staying in a bungalow. LOVEEEEEEE. This time we were sleep steps from the beach…. we could hear the waves crashing all night. Man on man, I was in heaven. Again, we had no wifi, water or electricity in our bungalows – but it was a very unique experience and I was very lucky to be there! Plus we knew it was temporary.

I introduced the group to s’mores (Only the North Americans knew what they were)…. crazy! So on the drive out I was able to track down marshmallows, Hershey’s and a thai substitute for graham crackers (not that easy in a Thai grocery store, FYI). Later that night, we had a pretty epic group party that involved releasing lanterns, roasting s’mores and just generally having a good time.

www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com

 

 

Koh Phangan- Part II. 
After 3 days of not being able to take a warm shower, we were brought to the other side of the island and stayed at this amazing little hotel – which to us felt like a 5star resort (But it’s only $30 US a night). Things in Thailand are insanely cheap, but this one just blew my mind… and we were so happy to have warm water. Ha! A group of us took a boat ride to the northern part of the island and did some snorkeling, waterfall hiking and kayaking. A long but relaxing day.

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
Koh Tao (COH-TAH-O)

I swear the islands just kept getting prettier and prettier each day. Koh Tao was NO exception… honestly, this might have been my favorite thai island. I would go back in a heartbeat. We had four wonderful days here to do whatever we wanted. And after 15+ days of traveling at this point, I wanted nothing more than to lay around and do nothing. Soooooo that’s what we did.

Note: I also got one of the best massages of my life on this island – right next to the beach. Nice find, Sarah.


www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
Overnight Ferry (Koh Tao to Suri Thani – 2 hour van ride to Krabi)
So this was a bit of a shock…. and a huge reality check. We were told we were taking an overnight ferry and I pictured something similiar to a cruise ship. HA – I did not picture us all sleeping side by side (along with a bunch of random people, mostly backpackers) with only squatter toilets as a bathroom option. FUN TIMES. We boarded at 9pm and docked at 4am, but it got us to Railay Bay faster than if we had done it during the day. The overall ride wasn’t too bad, the only thing that really stunk was that I had a drop of water drip on my leg all night. Needless to say, this was an experience. One I’ll never need to repeat again. 🙂 <3

www.jordanntomasek.com

 

Railay Bay // Krabi (RAYLAY)
Soooooooo yah, Railay Bay kinda takes your breathe away. THIS is the Thailand you’ve seen in pictures and we got to spend four fabulous days here. However, some of the group got pretty sick… and I mean SICK. Supposedly there is some dreaded illness that just takes hold for 24-48 hours and there is basically nothing you can do to prevent it (Luke suggested we skip chicken and veggies – but it didn’t work). 15 out of 16 people were hit by the bug by the time the tour was over. I got it whilst in Koh Phi Phi…. and it was the most miserable thing I’ve ever experienced. However, while on Railay Bay (east and west), I spent my days either learning how to cook Thai food (Mango sticky rice? Massaman Curry, Chicken Satay – alllllllll delish) or laying by the pool/beach. A few of us (most of the group was just not healthy at this point), spent the daily sailing around from island to island on an old japenese sailboat. Snorkeling, cliff jumping, swimming with glow in the dark plankton and jumping off the boat. It was absolutely magical.

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
Koh Phi Phi (COH – Pee-Pee)

Oh man, I waaaaaaanted to love Koh Phi Phi —- buuuuut this is the point where I got horrrrribly sick. And I mean SICK. Fortunately, it didn’t hit me till day #2 – so I was still able to hike to the lookout point, but this illness took me OUT. It unfortunately hit just as we were heading out on the boat for the day. A day that was taking us to Maya Beach – aka where the Beach was filmed. I HAD to go… but I quickly wished I just had skipped it. I was literally puking at every stop we took. Basically I fed a lot of fishes this day. A LOT. I might look happy at “The Beach”- but I was constantly running to the rocks to puke. Mad props to my travel mates (Rosie and Alex), for trying to help me along the way. Once we got back (late that night), I spent the next 12 hours in bed and onwards to Phuket we went.


www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com


Phuket // Panwa Cape

Soooo our 18 day tour wrapped in Phuket, I sadly said goodbye to my travel mates one by one. I’ve made the mistake in past travels, by not staying a few extra days to mentally detox before boarding a long haul flight home… so this trip I decided I wanted to splurge on my last few days. I had the opportunity to do so in a place that wasn’t terribly expensive… EVERYTHING in Thailand is crazy cheap – this hotel (which would easily cost me $1000/night in the US, cost me $150). One of my awesome travel mates, Lili (who was spending the next month working with rescued elephants— aka she is amazing), joined me for some laughs and excellent conversation. We laughed a lot, pampered ourselves, ate thai delicacies (which I thought were incense) and got a few shades darker. Excellent end to a wonderful 32 day trip. When the time came, I wasn’t ready to go… but I was at peace was heading home. I laughed a lot, lost track of days and felt wellllll rested. Couldn’t ask for more than that.

“…there’s no way to reach it unless you slow down, get quiet and stop for a little while to notice.”

Accommodation: Bandaras Villas Phuket

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com


Until next time… 



In my life, there’s been a single, reliable constant: I want to travel. The only thing I want, to put it simply, is the world. 
Quote Source 

Sometimes, it REALLY is that simple. If you’ve read my blog (or talked to me) at all, you know that my injury early last year rocked my world. But what you probably don’t know is that, contrary to the superficial veil of social media, I was swallowed up by depression for most of 2014. And I absolutely positively didn’t know how to shake it. We all have ups and downs and I can assure you… I know it’s all about your mindset and how you react. However, this was the first time I can say  EVERYTHING that was normal in my life got flipped, slapped and thrown around. I didn’t know how to cope.  I couldn’t walk, cook, live on my own, let alone workout to burn any sort of energy for almost 9 months. I  just had time. Something I apparently fear. “Time to think? Analyze? No thank you.” I was typically spending 14 hours a day working (my full time job and photography). On top of that I was spending 3 hours a day commuting; which was slowly stealing my soul. I love, love, love what I do – but I lacked any sort of balance and it had taken its toll. So when everything just stopped?  Ahhhhhh!!! I had nothing but time to really get to the core of what I wanted… or more specifically needed.

So I started with what I did want and what I could do to make them happen.

  • Restructure my photography business? CHECK.
  • Ask for time off? CHECK.
  • Move for the 2nd time in a year? CHECK.
  • Get healthy? CHECK.
  • Walk without a limp? CHECK.
  • Walk fast… then jog…then run? CHECK (although it took 10 months). 
  • Plan and research the heck out of this trip? CHECK.
  • Let go and trust it’ll all workout? CHECK.

So with allllll of that? I can honestly tell you this trip is hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I literally hit STOP on all the chaos and just LIVED. I found the answers I’ve been searching for, I found happiness in even in the smallest moments, I learned to love myself (every flaw) and mostly, I just learned to let go. I invite you to follow my journey below. Something to note: I did NOT bring my professional camera along. It was left behind at the last minute because I wanted this trip to be more about the moments and less about being behind a giant camera (and stressing about it along the way). I’ll be honest: During the first few days I regretted not having it. BIG time. But once figured out how to work my new location scouting camera (Fuji X100T) I was happy. 

Northern Thailand

Where did we go?

  • Bangkok
  • Pattaya
  • Sukohthai
  • Lampang
  • Chang Rai
  • Golden Triangle
  • Laos
  • Chang Mai

Tour/Hotel

  • Mercure Bangkok (I was on my own for the first 5 days)
  • G-Adventures – Northern Thailand Discovery | Guide: Joey

Bangkok

Everyone told me that 5 days in Bangkok was probably going to more than enough. I had thought about hopping over to Cambodia or Vietnam for a few days, but I really was just in need of some sunshine and relaxation. As you can see from a few photos below, my wonderful hotel (which I splurged on for the first few solo days), was an excellent place to start. 🙂 

Bangkok is fulllll of wonderful nooks and crannies and I began my travels there with a private tour guide ($50 US) that took me around the city in all forms of normal transit (basically anything the locals would take). Tuk tuks, trains, klong boats, canal tours… it was a wonderful introduction to the city. 

After a few days, I was ready to meet my first group – G Adventures. Per usual, I had the normal jitters before a tour (what if  no one is my age, what if I hate my roommate… etc). But yet again, as soon as I met the smiling faces at our little meetup – all stress went out the window. From there, began our journey to Northern Thailand. Some hotels were sketchier than others, some were lovely and some were what they were (Haley, can we talk about the air conditioning unit in Chang Rai?) Haha. As always, I’ll let the pictures do the talking – but please reach out if you have any questions on where I was and what I was doing! 🙂 


www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com
Pattaya: Day Trip

 Before I met up with the G Adventures group – I had taken my own little day trip to Pattaya because I wanted a little sunshine + beach combo before we headed North. I met some great people from all over (Bali, Oz, etc) and got some wonderful beach time in (PLUS I got to parasail for the 3rd time in my life). Beautiful spot… but I later found out it’s a hot spot for gay men. To each their own, but everyone laughed when I said I went there. 

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com

Sukothai

Beginnnnnn the temples, bowing and general respect for a country rooted in so much tradition and honor. I was absolutely fascinated by all the buddha’s and what they represented. Our group rented bikes for the day and strolled around the old capital city and got a wonderful lesson in Thai history. 

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com

Lampang

ELEPHANNNNNNTS!!! Obviously you can’t miss how ridiculously huge my smile is and how insanely pumped I am to see these guys. G Adventures took us to an elephant conservation hospital/grounds where we got to feed the elephants first hand and interact with them (knowing they were taken care of in the most humane ways possible). While my dream was to help partake in washing the elephants in the river, I was equally excited to feed these guys bananas and sugar cane. Such a cool experience. 

www.jordanntomasek.com www.jordanntomasek.com

 

Below is the White Temple – CLEARLY. Haha. This is essentially just a tourist stop as we learned. While its ornate and insanely detailed on the outside, it has some very modern designs on the inside (The Simpsons, Terminator… a lot of weird cultural references). www.jordanntomasek.com

Chang Rai/Golden Triangle/Chang Mai

The Golden Triangle: the very northern part of Thailand – where Burma, Laos and Thailand all meet (and the sun finally was HOT). Night markets were amazing. Bartering is expected. Lady Boy shows are common (and accepted). I wish I had more to say about Chang Mai – but for the two days we were there it absolutely POURED. Some of our group (and myself)  went off and waterfall hike (in the rain), elephant rides (which immediately just felt all sorts of wrong) and white-water rafted (which was freezing, but absolutely amazing). We took an overnight train back down to Bangkok and just as quickly as this tour began… it was over. The only thing that I disliked about my camera is that the focal range was difficult to take wide angle shots – aka shots with other people. 

www.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.comwww.jordanntomasek.com

 If you’d like to see more of my Thailand trip – aka the SOUTH (beaches/sunshine and more beaches)… that post is coming tomorrow! 🙂 

Having just returned from an amaaaaaaaaaaaazing 6 week sabbatical – I am getting asked quite a bit about the “how’s, where’s and what’s” of my Thailand trip. Sooooo to answer a lot of questions all at once (and some unasked questions), I thought I would help push others to travel on their own by sharing my knowledge/experiences. Note: I am NO expert and I am sure there are a million other ways to do things, but this is what has worked for me over the years.

First of all, I travel solo quite often and it always seems to shock people. But let’s get this out of the way now — I am RARELY ever alone.  It is amazing and it just works. It pushes me outside of my comfort zone, it challenges me in the best ways and it also allows me to choose to be as involved as I’d like… or not at all. There have been countless (amazing) bloggers that have chimed in on the subject. I am not out to recreate the wheel, but I am just here to share how I make something like this a reality.

Growing up, my family took advantage of our summers off and we were lucky enough to see most of America as children.  I’ve been to every US state (except Alaska) and have been to most of the Caribbean and all over Mexico (in my 20’s). My overseas travels began shortly after college and it was a wonderful introduction to life outside of the “American” mindset. However, my “solo” travel adventures began in mid 2008 with a 14 day trip to the Mediterranean (Spain, France and Italy). While it was slightly terrifying, it was even more exciting to be totally on my own. I’d say my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner…

www.jordanntomasek.com

Traveling Totally Solo
Again, while yes —- technically you’re alone, you’re not really by yourself. You just haven’t met your new friends yet. Granted, I am a very outgoing (and independent), but it isn’t about that. You just have to step outside of your comfort zone for a minute and trust it will all work out. On my Thai trip, I spent 5 days in Bangkok by myself.  I used the hotel concierge and a website I’ve used in the states (Viator.com) to find unique things to do. Not only do you meet people on these fabulous day adventures, you get to explore off beaten paths with them. Sometimes this leads to evening adventures, but mostly it means you have new friends. 🙂

  • Talk to everyone. Ask questions. Be kind and respectful. Learn a few basic words in the native language. Respect their culture. Try local food. Just be OPEN. But naturally, just use common sense. 
  • Take time for yourself. When was the last time you just sat in silence (without checking your phone)? Read a book? When were you last alone with your thoughts? Listen up!! It’s good for you! 
  • Check Viator.com for day adventures in practically any city in the world. They basically work like a travel agent of sorts? I like it because there are hundreds of ideas (most I would never think about) all in one site. Bonus: They have an app! 

Funny story: My sister had text me whilst I was solo in Bangkok and said that she felt bad that I was all alone. (Awwh sweet). Buuuut, I laughed and told her not to worry — I was perfectly happy! I was taking this break knowing what was to come. I knew I’d have alone moments and I would welcome them. It was only a matter of time before I met up with my travel groups and would meet new friends from all over the world.

2014-10-02_0051

Traveling with a Group
Travel groups tend to have a stigma – retired folk, older singles, couples and long bus rides… or at least I thought that is what they were all about. I always wanted to travel, but it got harder to find friends that could take off the same time and/or friends that want to see the same parts of the world. I didn’t know there were others ways to travel. Then everything changed in 2008:  I learned about Contiki.com – a travel group specifically tailored to 18-35 year olds. Naturally my first concern was that I was going to be traveling with a bunch of 18 year olds. Or worse, that no one would be my age?! Ahhhhhhhhh!

  • STOP. No matter the group age… It’s fine. Something funny happens when you’re with like minded people – age melts away. You’re all there for the same reasons: To explore. To live. To learn. 
  • Are you going to be the only solo one? NO. In my experience, over 85% of people on my tours ALSO travel solo. Even if you travel with a friend (or a significant other), you’ll all blend together no matter what. My closest friends on my last trip were a 20 year old Brit, a couple from England and a 25 year old Kiwi. Age means nothing. Everything… just works. 
www.jordanntomasek.com

Money
Yessssssssssss – we all want it and we all need it to do the travel thing… I get it. Personally, I work a lot; Something I am cutting back on this year. I have a second job/business where I earn a “disposable” income. But working a lot definitely has adverse side effects. I put my business ahead of social gatherings, dating (oops), ahead of my mental health and to be honest (while I love it), I end up being tired allllllllll the time. It was just easier to stay at home and do nothing on my “off nights” and edit to stay on top of my workload. But all of those sacrifices = savings.

Ways To Save (even without an extra income):

  • Pay yourself first. A chunk of every paycheck (and photoshoot), always goes into my savings.
  • Mint.com – Set up a mint.com account to see where your money goes each month and cut back on the things that don’t benefit you long term.
  • Automatic transfers. If you don’t have automatic transfers bi-weekly — start doing this NOW. Whether its $25 a week or $250. It ADDS UP.
  • Separate Savings account: Create a new savings account in a separate bank. It makes it harder to touch your savings. Personally I use a Capital One 360 savings account for this. It usually takes 2-3 days for money to transfer into my checking account…. which deters me from making impulsive purchases.
www.jordanntomasek.com

Travel Groups
Most of these companies cater to people OUR age – aka lots of fun and social experiences. Sommmme more than others (I am looking at you, TruTravels). The good news… every trip I have taken has been amazing and unforgettable.

Tip #1: Most of these companies have catalogs of their adventures for the year. Go on their websites today. Order their book(s) (Hint: They are FREE) and in a week you’ll have a pile of travel catalogs awaiting you at home. Having something tangible to flip through (and tab)? Helps the planning become a reality.

 Tip #2: Tours typically do NOT include airfare and airport transfers… but typically everything else (transit, food, FRIENDS).

www.jordanntomasek.com

Airfare
This will always be the most expensive part of any trip (unless you’re going to Australia/New Zealand – which is a VERY expensive place to visit). Personally, I LOVE the planning stage – it’s a game and it gets me excited to see what’s possible. Then when I have a base price, I try and beat it. (Insert: I am soooo not competitive at allllllll).

Where to start:

  • Kayak.com – I price out tentative dates (based on my tentative travel plans) and finding the fastest route (1 stop at the most and short layovers) and put together an excel spreadsheet. I check the pricing daily (or every other day) for months. Then when it comes to booking I know the price I am getting IS the best one. Sometimes you win… sometimes you lose a little bit.
  • Travel Credit Cards: See here.
  • Airfare Loyalty: MAKE sure you have travel miles or a credit card that offers rewards. Try to get on codeshare flights so that your miles count towards future flights. Personally, I am an AAdvantage member and love the kickbacks!

Other websites to stalk for flights:   

2014-10-02_0033

Length of Time
Sometimes, all you have is a week. I get that. Hell, a week is still AMAZING. But please note when traveling to the opposite side of the world, jetlag is gonna take you OUT for a few days. So if you’re only there for 8 days… 3-4 of them will possibly pretty hard…. unless you’re a rockstar and jetlag doesn’t hit you. If so, can you share your secrets?!? 

I’ve done 1 week, 2 week, 3 week vacations and more recently 6 weeks (partially unpaid). Hands down, if you can somehow negotiate at least 3 weeks off or more… DO IT. ((Of course… who wouldn’t want to?)) But that first longer trip was the first time I felt myself truly relax, I stopped thinking about work and just BREATHED. Again, I know it’s not always possible… especially if you’re an American. So remember that ANY break is a good break. See your state, the US… the world. Whatever it is for you — but just make that first step and GO.

www.jordanntomasek.com

Let’s talk a little about Thailand
2014 was a year that propelled me towards some massive change and it all stemmed from that damn achilles rupture. Talking is therapeutic for me and sharing the little milestones of my recovery with my “fb world” helped. But contrary to what social media presents, it was a really rough year emotionally and mentally. We all have ups and downs in life, but I had never felt anything like that. I was crying all the time, felt stuck and due to the injury – I had lost a lot of my independence. But the crying… gah!? That I couldn’t stop. I rarely cry!! Of couuuuuuuurse, I didn’t want to feel that way… but I didn’t know how to start to feel better.

So I first started by talking to a therapist… weekly. Something I had never done regularly (even when my dad died). This was, hands down, the best thing I could have done whilst in that situation. It was the first of MANY changes, but it was the most important first step.  Fact: I am not the same person I was a year ago (before my injury) –  Not even in the slightest bit. So in retrospect, I can hate the injury… but I am thankful for it. There are very few things that can slow me down the way that did (literally and figuratively).

A huge part of my journey forward was planning this trip. To get totally uncomfortable and shake things up (yet again). Soooooo with that goal in mind, I officially decided I’d explore Thailand with just the items on my back (i.e. Backpack). Having always been the “overpacker”… my family and friends thought I was crazy. But.I.was.so.excited.

Thailand trip itinerary.
If you’d like to see more photos, I’m still working on the blog posts… but they are coming soooooooon. Six weeks worth of memories is a lot to encompass in two posts!

  • Arizona – (7 days) Note: My entire family lives in Arizona now… soooo I spent the holidays with them and had my first taste of winter sunshine. Great start to my 6 weeks off!
  • Travel (2 days)
  • Bangkok – Solo (5 days)
  • Pattaya

G Adventures Tour (Northern Thailand Discovery)
This was my first G Adventures tour (really my first tour besides a Contiki trip). It was a good, slower change for pace of me. Contiki’s can be filled with those “party, party, party” kinds of people – but I wasn’t looking for that on this journey. I wanted culture, experiences and down time… and that’s what we got. I think 2 weeks in the North was plenty. I saw more than my share of temples and had a really chilled, good time. Highlight: Releasing my first Thai lantern into the sky? #bucketlist

  • Bangkok
  • Sukohthai
  • Lampang
  • Chang Rai
  • Golden Triangle
  • Laos
  • Chang Mai

TruTravels (Thai Island Hopper – 18 day)
This tour company is unlike any other tour I’ve taken… in a good way. The dynamic is verrrrry laid back and there is a schedule, but it’s not insanely strict. We experienced TRUE backpacking in Thailand, without the hostels. We took every form of transportation possible (buses, ferrys, overnight trains, tuk tuks, klong boats… you name it? We were on it). Additionally, we experienced some of the coolest little known Thai spots (Koh Sok, anyone?!). It truly was a wonderful 18 days… minus getting the dreaded Railay Bay bug — that had made its round through 15 other people before it hit me in Koh Phi Phi. Worst stomach flu everrrr.

  • Bangkok 
  • Surat Thani
  • Koh Sok National Park (2 days)
  • Koh Phangan – Bottle Beach (1.5 days)
  • Koh Phangan – Haad Rin Beach (1.5 days)
  • Koh Tao (4 days)
  • Krabi – Railay Bay (4 days)
  • Krabi – Phuket – Patong Beach (1.5 days)
  • Krabi Phuket – Panwa Cape/Bay (Solo)

Note: Thailand, as whole, is a very poor country. Everything is VERY cheap (food, clothes, you name it). Ex: Clothes are $2, Bottled water is $.10, Two HOUR massages are $15; Meals cost $2-$3. Soooo once you’re there your expenses are very minimal. It’s the number one backpacking country in the world… for good reason.

Travel Details

  • Flights: Etihad and Korean Air
  • Airtime: 25 hours to Thailand and 18 hours back to Chicago
  • Days: 32 days in Thailand (2 days of travel) and 8 days in Arizona
  • Visa: 32 day Visa required (My first travel visa)

There are far more adventurous people than me and there are certainly better ways to do everything. Ideally, I’d love to take a year off of work/life and travel – but THAT kinda terrifies me. I have a great job and a great boss… I am not ready to walk away from all that. Maybe one day, but for now I love my trips and all the fabulous people I meet along the way. After all it never is about the location you visit… it is about the people. 

I’ve been back for just about 3 weeks and I am still in that euphoric state that I cannot really describe. I am happier, lighter, confident and I keep making little changes that get me closer to my goals.  Things that keep me movin’ forrrrward. <3

Best of luck in your travel planning and feel free to leave some travel tips below – I am always eager to know what works for others!!

Friday, February 7th three friends and I played in a competitive 4’s volleyball tournament. During our second match of the night, I went to dig a ball, as I have done at least a million other times in my life. I stepped back and went to step forward into the dig. Right as my body hit the floor, it felt as if someone stepped on the back of my left foot. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone. It mostly felt like a sting of pressure, but mostly it just felt numb. I tried to get up and I couldn’t… Insert: Pure panic.

In less than 6 days, I was due to get on a plane to Hong Kong, crash there for the night. Then on to Bali for 10 days and then on to Thailand for another 10 days. A trip I had been planning for MONTHS. A trip that I had paid in full. A trip in which I was meeting a friend – who was ALREADY in Indonesia.

2014-02-16_0039

With a quick stop at my apartment to grab my insurance card, Ingrid, one of my bestests, drove me to the ER. After about two hours, we were seen by a nurse. A quick exam, drug test and another 30 minute wait, the ER doc came in. While she couldn’t do an MRI that night, she informed me that I likely completely tore OR partially tore my achilles tendon. Super.

I was put in a splint, given a pair of crutches and sent home. She recommended that I follow up with an Ortho and get an MRI ASAP.  Gotta love 1 am ER visits on a Friday/Saturday morning – nothing was open till Monday. I had two days to wait and wonder.

I was able to get into an amaaazing sports injury doc first thing Monday at Castle Orthopedics in Aurora. They fitted me with a walking cast/boot and I quickly realized how hard this was going to be. I discovered that a walking cast is not exactly that. I couldn’t actually put much weight on it – without my foot/leg hurting. The boot was HEAVY. Crutches were difficult for me to manage. If I was planning on going on this trip, I would need to find ways to make it happen. I spent much of the afternoon researching knee scooters, per the doctor’s recommendation… thinking I could just scoot my way through airports and the streets of Bali. But seriously, WHO was I kidding??? My head knew what I had to do… but my heart hadn’t fully caught up.

2014-02-16_0035

Traveling and seeing the world is a drug to me. I LOVE new adventures. I love the thrill of feeling lost in a new place. I love experiencing new cultures. It was so close… I wasn’t ready to give it up. But once I had some time to actually sit down and think, I started to process what was happening. I really thought about what I was about to get myself into. From boarding the plane, getting from the Hong Kong Airport to my hotel… on crutches. Getting ANYWHERE. Not being able to run along the beach, jump in the pool, swim in the ocean, etc. I slowly realized it wasn’t going to be the trip I had imagined.

And that is when reality set it – late Monday night. Where I had a good, hard cry that my trip was going to be cancelled… by me. I next to never cry, but I straight up sobbed my eyes out. Not only was this trip not happening, but more importantly, I realized this wasn’t [in general] going to be an easy road.

IMG_9480

The MRI showed that I completely tore my achilles tendon… aka a complete rupture. But I tore it at a point that I was not a candidate for surgery (I didn’t even know that was possible). I would need a cast right away; for which I need to wear for 3.5 weeks and then I’d be back in a boot for another 5 weeks. I cannot put any weight on either cast/boot for the next 8 weeks. Super.

It takes 4-6 months to fully recover from an achilles tendon tear. I could re-rupture it again and be in the same situation a year from now if I don’t let this heal properly. The timing sucks, but there are so many worse things out there that could have happened.

IMG_9465

I am only a week and a half into my recovery, but I am BEYOND grateful I have family close-by. I have had to move home for the next month. My apartment in Bucktown is a bit too tricky to get in and out of with crutches. But mostly I have help at my mom’s house. My mom (and sister) have been amazing and step in whenever I need an extra hand… which is about every two feet. As an extremely independent person, it is very hard to ask for help. But there is a lot I just simply cannot do. So I am beyond thankful for all the little and big things people are able to do for me. Thank YOU.

There are several positive things I’ll choose take away from this. 1) I’ll be back to 100% in about 6 months (hopefully) and those locations aren’t going anywhere. 2) I don’t have to have surgery. 3) I had trip insurance and I am 100% covered. 4) Most importantly, my arms and abs are gonna be RIPPED from rocking these (sheep-skin covered) crutches for 8 weeks. All I can do is look forward and work on getting better. In the meantime, I get to rock prime parking, Target scooters and watch a lot of Netflix.

If anything this is an eye-opening and humbling experience all around. I’ve stumbled, slipped and tripped. Not only in reality and metaphorically-speaking as well… but let’s be honest, that’s life in general. We all trip up, we all fall a little – it’s how you handle those types of moments that defines who you are. So as far as my injury is concerned, it’s just one little bump in the road. #bringit

 

UA-9294508-1